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The Midterms Won’t Make Things Better; Here’s What Will

November 2, 2018 by

It is the eve of another election, and it’s one that many people are concerned about. Of course, both sides want to gain power, but whichever way it goes, we are likely in for more rancor and hatred, and probably violence.

I am sixty-four years old, a child of the 60s and 70s. Like today, those were years of division and violence: the war in Vietnam, riots in the cities, the fight for civil rights, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., President John Kennedy, and his brother Senator Robert Kennedy. Yet somehow the current climate seems worse. Not even in the grief of yet another mass shooting, this time eleven people meeting in a synagogue, can we come together as a nation and turn toward something better as a society.

It’s easy to blame our fragmentation on the big targets like social media or targeted online ads or the specific news outlets we rely on. But what if the problem lay closer to home? As did the solution?

“This much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.”
—Robert Kennedy

Words from the 1960s offer a key. The day after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy gave a short speech in Cleveland. It is worth noting that he was assassinated just two months later. Whatever you think of the Kennedys and their politics, it was a speech that cut to the heart of the issue: “The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed.… Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.”

These words ring true today, and they are signposts toward something new – but only if we recognize that our nation’s soul is sick and in need of cleansing. And that every person can work toward that change by extending love and respect to those around him.

But it has to happen one person at a time, starting with me. Then it can spread to my family, my friends and neighbors, and even my enemies.

If I dislike someone and treat him accordingly, I will only come to dislike him more, and soon dislike turns into hatred. But the opposite is also true. If I treat someone with respect, kindness, and forgiveness, then something good grows in me, and I will come to dislike him less. In time I may even come to love him – in spite of any differences we may have. Eventually, I will see in that person, as in myself, the image of a loving God.

Jesus entered the world when the political climate was also uncertain; a dictator ruled with ruthless suppression. Amid this climate Jesus lived, gathered his disciples, associated with outcasts, loved his enemies, and preached his good news. Ultimately, he was executed by the Roman government.

But after Jesus rose from the dead, everything changed. His message spread and transformed the world. That is the deepest renewal that we need again. “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). That is our ultimate hope.

sunset behind a tall tree

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About the author

Randall Gauger with his wife, Linda

Randall Gauger

Randall Gauger is a bishop of the Bruderhof communities in the United States. He and his wife, Linda, live at the Maple...

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